Monday, September 15, 2008

The city of the non-conformists

Ahh... What can I say? Everything about San Francisco is so atypical. A windy city built on crazy slopes of mountains that drop down to the Pacific must be pretty rare in itself. Add to that, the incredible variety of its residents. It doesn't seem like an American city in any respect. It's just some collage of cultures, like someone went crazy with scissors and an atlas. I heard from my hosts that no Walmart, Target or Shaw's and their ilk of supermarket chains were allowed within the city limits. Suits the city. Anything aimed for the mass markets would stick out like a sore thumb here.

There are so many images of the city that spring to mind all at once. The buzz of the street performers and their audiences in Fisherman's wharf, the roaring Harleys that wound their way up the crooked streets, the noisy trams clattering their way across town packed with eager tourists like me hanging on and the sobering sight of the massive span of the Golden Gate Bridge and that of the restless ocean beating away at the bridge's base to name a few. The curiously Chinese China Town of San Francisco was another strange addition to the sights and sounds of the city. Then there were the sea lions at Pier 39 oinking away, groaning, burping and bumping each other off the buoys much to the excitement of their tourist spectators. A guide told me that these things were the third biggest tourist attraction in the USA after the two Disneylands. Consider that, the first two multi million dollar investments on a man's imagination brought to life while the third nature's clowns just being themselves. I can't really say what was so captivating about these weird looking and funny sounding creatures but they were just so naturally entertaining.

The picture postcard houses and the towering buildings that looked so out of place on streets which were at implausible angles and curves made the city look like some abandoned experiment. The experiment that was successful in so far as to make it all it stick together but no one seems to know what it's original intention was! All I can say, it's a wonderful, weird city and I am counting on some more visits to it in the future.

The thinly veiled secret to happiness

I have been trying to figure it out for a very long time. I work the same job as my pals and don't bitch about my low salary, poor annual rating or the lack of growth opportunity in the company. I live in the city as my pals and don't whine about how lifeless a city it is and about how all the hot chicks are in either Delhi or Bombay or about how the other guys are really having a rocking time in Bangalore. Basically I live the same life as theirs yet I find no sincere need to cringe about what I have even though admittedly it is not a lot!

I put it down to one and one reason alone. In spite of my tall claims about how I thirst for change, about how much I love travel and writing and adventure, there is only one thing that I truly love. And that is pure, undisturbed sleep. With my US posting and a tiny apartment all to myself, I find myself indulging in this passion even more deeply. When I am sleepy, I don't even care what kind of a bed I am sleeping on or where it is located. All I care for a pillow. Yeah, I don't even need a mattress. I spent months sleeping on a wooden board with my pet pillow in my hostel days just because some considerate friend of mine had puked on my bed-sheet after drunken revelries and I wasn't driven enough to get it washed. The only thing that I need for a good night's sleep apart from a pillow is a filled stomach. Food content is immaterial as long as it is edible. And that is all the work I really need to do.

So there you have it, the secret to instant contentment. Learn to love your sleep more than anything else and do just about enough to keep your stomach filled. The latter part also shouldn't be too strenuous if yours is the only stomach you are taking the responsibility of! All right folks, I hear ya shouting loud and clear, "What a LOOOSSERRRR!!" [:-D]

Night out on the town

I have never been to a discotheque in India and have never even wanted to. There were other pals of mine who would salivate at the prospect and beg for any opportunity to get into one of those crowded, noisy, flashily lit up places that seem to be central to most people's idea of living it up! For me, they seemed to be such a unattractive place to be: being forced to listen to the kind of music I hate while getting jostled by strangers. To top it off, going single into a club really reeks of desperation and that is one thing in life I have had no experience of. I figured that it was not my kind of game.

So when my cousin told me last Saturday that we had two options of hitting Boston's night-time circuit - A : Go bar-hopping or B: Land up in a lounge or a disc for the entire night, I instantly chose option A. But Hurricane Hanna put paid to that plan with her torrential rains through Saturday evening and we were forced to choose B if I wanted to do anything that weekend. We chose a club/lounge called "Mantra" (run by an Indian, though I saw very few inside) in downtown Boston and I made my debut in the zoo of the creatures of the night. I knew myself to be a introverted, quiet kind of guy who'd rather hang around a deserted city park and drink in a quiet little bar than head for the more 'popular' parts of town. Well... I was wrong, completely and absolutely wrong.

With the aid of a couple of pegs of rum consumed before entry, the place literally swallowed me up. The thumping music danced in circles around me, teasing me to match up to it. The strobe lights and the hallucinogenic graphics on the giant screens were just so perfect for the occasion. A bevy of bewitching beauties swaying to the music awaited wherever the eye turned, their looks and figures toned to perfection and I found myself agreeing to my cousin that the only guy who could be really happy in here would be a single guy, because he had effectively the entire menu to choose from (On paper, at least). Sure enough, the best looking girls were part of some group or the other, never for a single second unattended, and the other girls that looked to be on the hunt themselves were, at least on my first experience of the nightclub scene, were trying too hard. That needy look on a girl's face really kills off any possible sense of attraction for me, though for most it may be a big turn-on. 

A few really pretty faces would occasionally steal a seductive glance before focussing back on their group, and the locking of gazes that spoke much more than a million words could have conveyed were to be the real high points of the night. Whether these moments would progress into something more substantial by the end of the night was the whole point of the game. I finally got what was so alluring about night-life and I really took a liking to it. This trip of America is turning out to be a real eye-opener! I keep discovering unexplored portions within what was until recently my very familiar mind.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Only in America

I am only 23 and I have already bought my Dream Machine. And what might this Dream Machine be, you ask? Well, it's just a digital radio-clock made by Sony. I figured that I needed one to enhance my American experience. I remember countless Hollywood movies when the grumpy lead stirs out of his/her sleep to slap off the buzzing alarm on the top of the glowing digital time display. Also goes to show that in this country, they actually trust the power companies to supply electricity 24/7 which is why they let their clocks run on electricity from a power socket. This is a country of uninhibited self promotion. Even a poor old alarm clock has to project itself as a "Dream Machine" to ever hope of finding its way off the shelf and into the hands of the discerning consumer!

I was out with my cousin to a tourist destination called Castle Rock north of Boston last Sunday. It's a grand old rock on the coast of the Atlantic and surrounded by some of the prettiest houses I've ever seen (though for me all it takes for a house to be pretty is for it to have an open view of the sea). All I expected to see was a spectacular view of the Atlantic and it's rocky coastline. But fate it seems had better things in store for us. A tantalising photo-shoot was in progress at the rocks that enclosed the Castle Rock. A stunning blonde model in a bikini was posing amongst those rocks with the ocean as the backdrop for a fashion photographer, probably getting her modeling portfolio shot. As she struck a heady mix of innocent and provocative poses, my cousin and me, like all hot-blooded young males on the hunt would be, were transfixed! And when the first phase of the first photo-shoot ended, and she headed for a drink to refresh herself, I noticed a couple of kids maybe 8 or 9 playing by the shore only about 12-15 feet away from her. Then I realized that this was not some secret exotic location but some kind of a week-end family hangout too! There were numerous families who had come to this same place for some quiet get-together time as the kids thrilled at the sight of the ocean did their stuff while their parents earned some kind of a break from entertaining them.

And the model with all her posturing could take nothing away from the glee with which the kids jumped up when the occasional big wave crashed into the rocks and doused them with spray. It's as if they were still insulated in their own cocoon of innocence, unaware of all that surrounded them. A young kid fished alongside with his father on the rocks behind the model and they did not even turn around. There were fathers who seemed to be content at being with their families not even gazing in the direction of the photo-shoot and there were also men who were pushing their families ahead of them so that they could just grab an undisturbed sneak peek. For all the hue and cry over censorship and issues of supposed moral degeneration that we grapple with back home, it was fairly evident that for all men, it should come from within and just cannot be forced from without. Free a person to do whatever he wants to and in most cases, the desired scheme of things will be the end result.